BY MARK SCHOLZ, MD
Many of you may have noticed
that the Prostate Snatcher’s Blog has been temporarily on hold. Ralph
Blum, my coauthor of the Blog, passed away in March at the age of 84.
Ralph underwent surgery for a non-prostate-cancer-related abdominal problem and
unfortunately was never able to recover.
This has been a sad time for
me. In fact, I needed the last couple months to get my emotions settled
down before restarting the Blog. Ralph called himself a “Refusenik” due
to his strident stand against unnecessary treatment for prostate cancer.
Refusenik is a Russian term that describes individuals who fight the
establishment. Ralph was certainly a prostate cancer Refusenik. Ralph
didn’t only talk the talk; he walked the walk. By the time I first met
him, he had already been monitoring his untreated prostate cancer for 11 years
with PSA testing and an early type of prostate MRI scan technology. At
our first visit in 2001, he flew in from Maui for consultation about beginning
some form of treatment since his PSA had risen up to 18. After extensive discussions
that went on for more than a year, he reluctantly decided to begin Lupron
hormone therapy for 12 months. That turned out to be an effective
solution, stabilizing his disease for another 12 years. In 2013, his PSA
started rising again and he decided to undergo radiation, which he tolerated
without difficulty. The story of Ralph’s journey through all the many
mainstream and alternative treatment options is told in the book we wrote in
2010 and continued on the Blog.
Ralph and I spent many hours together
working on the book project and writing our weekly Blog. The book writing
process, due to my feeble writing skills included writing lessons for me.
He taught me the writing craft from the ground up. He was a generally
patient and apt teacher though we occasionally had some volcanic conflicts.
It was no surprise, considering how many hundreds of hours we spent
together and that we are both opinionated.
Ralph led an extremely
interesting life but he was never particularly talkative about himself. Most of
our conversations were about the business at hand, our various writing
projects. Too bad, because I think he could have shared many lively stories.
Just to give you an example, one day I was talking with him about my deep and
abiding respect for Winston Churchill. He passingly let drop that he ate
dinner with Churchill at his home in Chartwell! At first I was
disbelieving, but it turned out that Ralph was dating his daughter, and the old
man wanted to know who she was seeing so he invited Ralph over for dinner for
an inspection. Ralph didn’t have any profound recollections about the
experience except that Churchill was surprisingly short in stature. I
occasionally tried to plumb Ralph for more stories about his life, but he had
very little interest in talking about himself. I did learn, however, that
his mother was a silent film star named Carmel Myers. Ralph once showed me a
picture of his mother who was indeed quite a beauty. She was so
attractive in fact that Charlie Chaplin, who was also in the picture, was
lustfully leering at her.
Ralph was trained by Margaret
Mead as a cultural anthropologist. He also worked with Timothy Leary doing
early research into LSD at Harvard. He spent time in Italy as a Fulbright
Scholar. He received grants from the National Science Foundation and the
Ford Foundation, and received a BA in Russian Studies and Anthropology.
Somewhere along the way Ralph learned to speak French (he lived in Paris
for a time). Besides also speaking Russian, I don’t know if he spoke any
After Ralph graduated Phi Beta
Kappa from Harvard he traveled to Soviet Russia and wrote cultural reports
published in The New Yorker between 1961 and 1965. He also studied Soviet
Cinema at Leningrad University. He wrote for Readers Digest,
Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Saturday Evening Post. He published three novels: The Foreigner (1961), The Simultaneous Man (1970)
and Old Glory and the Real-Time
Freaks (1972). Both The
Simultaneous Man and Old
Glory reflect his involvement in early drug research. He also
won the 2011 Gold Medal from Nautilus Book in Wellness, Prevention and Vitality
for Investigative Reporting in Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers.
Ralph was a special and totally
unique person. He and I were a rather unlikely match considering his
generally bohemian lifestyle compared to my rather straight-laced, workaholic
ways. Even so, our differences had a counterbalancing, net-positive
effect. I am very grateful that Ralph approached me with the idea to
write a book back in 2007. He came up with its uniquely memorable
title. And while the book has no doubt benefited many people, Ralph
benefited me personally in a remarkable way. Without his mentoring I
would still be the literary neophyte he approached back in 2007. Instead,
under his influence, he transformed me into a passable writer. Winston
Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by
what we give." Ralph, thank you for everything
you gave us.